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By the time this post is published, I should be on my way home from a week’s vacation in a lakeside cottage. If all has gone well, I’m nice and relaxed, having done a lot of swimming, canoeing, and reading books by Loretta Chase, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale and our own Diane Perkins.

Still, wouldn’t it be exciting to have a time-travel machine and travel back to some exciting or beautiful British location during the Regency? Where would you go?

Would you like to dance at Vauxhall gardens with a devilishly handsome rake?

Or would you prefer the more sedate elegance of Bath? While we’re at it I have to say when I was there I tried the water and it really wasn’t half as bad as most Regency novels make it out to be.

Are you into nature? I am. One of the things I fantasize about is experiencing the countryside without hearing the hum of traffic, gazing into a sky full of stars without modern light pollution.

In one of my favorite Regency fantasies I would be hiking around the Lake District with a companion that looked remarkably like Colin Firth.

Perhaps I’d go even farther afield and explore the beauties of Scotland.

So tell me about your fantasy Regency vacation!

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Regency Romance of 2005

If you’re a romance reader, and you’ve admitted as such to anyone who doesn’t read them, chances are they’ve given you a smirk and said, ‘oh, you read bodice-rippers,’ like they’re the first ones who thought of that clever bon mot.

Yeah, and no-one’s ever mentioned Peter Frampton when I say my last name, either, bucko.


Back in the day, bodice-ripping was SOP for the romance hero. And chances are, if you were reading them, there was something there that made you thrill as said hero ripped said bodice. And bent the heroine to his will until she was all trembly and kissed him back.

Right now, I’m reading an older (1994) Linda Howard book, Dream Man, which was recommended by two of my favorite reader bloggers. And the hero, Detective Dane Hollister (whose name is even alpha!) has had a persistent erection since meeting the heroine, whom he mistrusts, even considers a suspect in a murder case, and still wants to throw her on her kitchen floor and have his way with her. He stands too close to her just to unsettle her, follows her all day and says nasty, dismissive things to her. When he’s finally alone with her, he tries to ‘gentle’ her (he himself makes the stallion/mare comparison):

“I know you’re skittish with men now, babe, but I’ll take care of you. I’ll take real good care of you.”
. . .
“What are you talking about?”
. . .
“In bed, babe. When we make love.”

Oh, you wicked Neanderthal! I am loving this book, and relishing every time he does something totally un-P.C., which is about every page or so. I am the most Bleeding Heart Liberal (with all its PC implications, although I am not a ninny) you will find in real life, but in my romance reading life?

To quote ‘80s comedienne/not-so-good songstress Julie Brown:

When I need somethin’ to help me unwind
I find a six foot baby with a one track mind
Smart guys are nowhere, they make demands
Give me a moron with talented hands
I go bar-hopping and they say last call
I start shopping for a Neanderthal
I like ’em big and stupid
I like ’em big and real dumb
I like ’em big and stupid
The way he grabbed and threw me, ooh it really got me hot
But the way he growled and bit me, I hope he had his shots
The bigger they are the harder they’ll work
I got a soft spot for a good lookin’ jerk

I think that’s one of the reasons paranormals are so popular–if you’re a werewolf male, you can’t help being all alpha on her ass (so to speak). If you’re a vampire, you’re probably leader of your clan, or tribe, or whatever loose aggregation you belong to, and you have to use your superhuman speed and strength to protect yourself and your family.

In other words, it’s acceptable to be an alpha jerk.

So while I don’t want to see the return of the long, meandering narrative where the hero and heroine chase each other across land and sea, with years inbetween, I would like my heroes to be more–heroically obnoxious. Current non-paranormal authors who write my type of guys are Anne Stuart, Christina Dodd, and Sabrina Jeffries . Another reader blogger swoons over Derek Craven in Lisa Klepas‘s Dreaming of You, and I have to agree he’s pretty darn sexy in that ‘it’s-my-way-or=the-highway’ kind of way.

Do you like these type of guys? If so, which authors do them best? If not, why not? Have you turned to paranormal to get your alpha fix on? What do you think?

*A Soundgarden lyric whose refrain is “I know what to do/I want to f***, f***, f*** you.” Love that song.

It’s nothing to do with the Regency, or books, or writing. Just a painting I like, The Arnolfini Marriage aka The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami painted in 1434 by Jan van Eyck. The original is in the National Gallery in London, and is surprisingly small and modest (about 30″ x 20″). What I like about this painting is its sense of mystery and the huge amount of symbolism the ordinary household objects convey; and also its sense of intimacy as though you’re peeping through an open door at the marriage ceremony.

The candle burning in daylight represents the all-seeing Eye of God; the image of St. Margaret, the patron saint of childbirth, is carved on the back of the bed, and the fruit on the window ledge represent both fertility and the fall from the Garden of Eden. The dog is a symbol of fidelity, and the discarded shoes a symbol of humility. A bird flying outside represents the Holy Spirit.

If you poke around online you’ll quite easily find some hi-res images of this painting, and be able to zoom in on a closeup of the mirror. There you can see the reflection of the artist and another figure–witnesses to the marriage? The amount of detail is fabulous–the decorative projections of the mirror each represent a meticulously painted religious scene. The mirror itself is convex and represents the room–and more, the sky and garden outside.

Wow. If I were feeling more clever tonight, I might draw some sort of conclusion between what van Eyck is doing and what writers try to do, the creation of worlds within worlds. Showing everything but keeping that sense of mystery.

That’s all.


Hi, Amanda here, sitting in for the vacationing Elena! Elena will be back with you Saturday, and then next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Riskies.

I had kind of a hard time coming up with a topic today (again!), so you’re going to get something of a book report. I just finished reading a short (about 131 pages) but totally fascinating book, A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer by Elisabeth de Feydeau (whose bio says she earned a Ph.D in the history of perfume at the Sorbonne–I wish I had majored in the history of perfume!). It’s a biography of the perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon, and is full of tidbits about life at Versailles, fashions, gossip, the ingredients and composition of perfumes, and all kinds of fun things. Like these:

On the process of dressing the queen: “The dressing of the Queen was a masterpiece of etiquette, with rules for everything. The lady in waiting and the dame d’atours, if they were together, were assisted by the First Lady of the Bedchamber and two ordinary women, responsible for the main service, but there were distinctions between them. The dame d’atours put on the petticoat and presented the dress. The lady in waiting poured the water for the Queen to wash her hands and put on her chemise. But when a princess of the royal family attended the dressing, she replaced the lady in waiting to accomplish the latter task. However, the lady in waiting did not cede her place directly to the royal princess; she gave the chemise to the First Lady, who then presented it to the princess. All of the Queen’s ladies scrupulously observed these customs and jealously guarded their rights of duty.”

And on choosing the garb for the day: “The wardrobe boy delivered to the Queen’s apartments green taffeta-covered baskets containing the things she would wear that day; he then brought the First Lady a book containing swatches from the dresses, ceremonial garb, and negliges. The First Lady presented this book to the Queen when she awoke, with a pin cushion. The Queen would place pins in the swatches of all the things she wanted to wear that day; one for the ceremonial garb, another for the afternoon neglige, another for the evening gown she had chosen for cards or games or supper in the private apartments. The book was returned to the wardrobe, and soon the Queen’s choices arrived, wrapped in taffeta…The wardrobe consisted of three large rooms lined with cupboards, some with rungs, others with rails. In each room there were large tables that served to spread out the dresses and costumes and to refold them.”

The details about perfumes are very yummy. Marie Antoinette enjoyed scents of rose, violet, jonquil, and tuberose, and she bought a hand cream called “Pate Royale,” hair pomades of rose, vanilla, carnation, and jasmine, various soaps, powders, bath sachets, and potpourri for her rooms. She commissioned a scent called “parfum de Trianon,” meant to remind her of her beloved hideaway. It contained rose, orange blossom, lavender, citron and bergamot, iris, nd a touch of jonquil.

Between this book, and the giant “fall fashion” issue of Vogue I got yesterday that features Kirsten Dunst on Marie Antoinette costume on the cover, I can’t WAIT for the movie Marie Antoinette! What are some of your own favorite scents? And are you looking forward to this film as much as I am? 🙂

Tomorrow, I’m headed off to Worldcon — the 64th annual World Science Fiction Convention. There will be a couple thousand science fiction and fantasy authors, fans, illustrators, actors, and others there, including Connie Willis, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Garth Nix, and Madeleine E. Robins (author of the Regency-set Point of Honour and Petty Treason.) There will be Regency dancing, we’ll find out who won the Hugos this year (I got to vote!), and there will be panels with names ranging from “I’ll Pull Out Your Eyestalks and Stomp on Them” to “Should Californians be Farmers?” to “Writing While Holding Down a Day Job” to “The Slytherin Question.”

Something for everyone, in other words. So in the spirit of mixing up Regency dancing and quantum black holes, here’s a different kind of mix-up for you to play with. If Mr. Spock had to marry one of Jane Austen’s characters, and it was your job to choose the one who would make him the happiest (and he her, of course), who would you pick? Caroline Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Tilney? Miss Bates? Someone else? The choice is yours!

Or, if you prefer, find the lady who will finally keep Captain Kirk from straying!

Who will it be? Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, Elinor Dashwood? Mary Crawford? Lucy Steele? Elizabeth Elliot? Mrs. Dashwood? Someone else? Who would finally keep the captain with the ripped shirt on the straight and narrow?

Who would enjoy traveling about to other planets? Anne Elliot, perhaps? Who wouldn’t mind sleeping on beds covered only by thin metallic blankets? Who would be easily able to deal with Klingons and Organians and the like? Who wouldn’t mind raising children who rarely get to see a blue sky, a dog, or natural fabrics?

All opinions welcome!

Cara King, winner of the Booksellers’s Best Award for

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